Let’s Read This Thing : War and Peace is the collected notes and thoughts that popped into my brain while reading through Tolstoy’s 1200 Page Masterpiece. Spoilers!
War and Peace is the story of a conflict- of the overt battles of the Russian campaign against Napoleon, and of the moral and social conflicts that take place back home. As the novel draws closer to a close it is logical that such conflicts be resolved.
In Part 1, bits of that resolution came through forgiveness, through sacrifice, and through death. In Part 2, we see more of the same, though with a more militaristic focus. Large portions of this segment deal with the real life characters of this war- Kutuzov and Napoleon first and foremost. These actual historical figures have had their thoughts fictionalized by Tolstoy numerous times throughout the text, giving glimpses of what these formidable men may have thought. In the case of Kutusov we see a patient man, a man who knows his strength is growing, but who knows that uncalculated actions could easily lead to a Russian defeat. He tries to do what he thinks is best, and through it backfires through chance, his army still makes it out and he is rewarded. Kutuzov cannot control his men to the degree he wishes, but his control is enough to keep them from full devastation.
Napoleon too seeks to control all of those around him- military and non. He is a man of ego, a man used to pattern and getting what he asks for. He tries to mollify the remaining Muscovites- offering them money for grains, reaching out to the churches and theaters. But nothing works. The Russians are unlike any other people he has invaded. Peace will not be achieved during this occupation, and winter is coming. Napoleon has to admit defeat. He has to swallow his pride and flee.
That march from Moscow also reacquaints us with Pierre who has spent a month in captivity. Though a prisoner, he is happy. Count Bezhukov, who has spent this entire book questioning his life and what life means, and is finally at some level of peace thanks to his interactions with Platon Karataev. He appreciates simplicity. He feels transcended from physical pain. Pierre knows that through all of this suffering his soul can never be harmed, and it transforms him. His moral conflicts are at an end as the military conflicts do likewise. The curtain is soon to close.